Mitigating Infection Risk from Touchscreens with Time of Flight Gesture Recognition
The increasing prevalence of touchscreens in our day to day lives means they are developing into a disease vector of ever-increasing proportions.
Touchscreen technology is a straightforward, cost-effective, do-it-yourself option for a wide range of tasks that were formerly undertaken by human beings. A few examples include:
• Ticket machines in train stations and cinemas
• Airport check-in desks
• Reception desks in offices and hotels
• Self-checkouts in supermarkets
Empowering customers to perform these tasks via touchscreen expedited routine activities and offers convenience for both customers and companies, in most cases, at least.
This increased convenience is not without its downsides and these screens can become home to a wealth of viruses and bacteria which accumulate via thousands of unwashed fingers, allowing them to be effectively spread between users.
While we may not automatically be concerned about touching such a screen and then eating fast-food with our hands, research from 2018, published by London Metropolitan University really highlighted this issue, sharing the list of harmful and infectious bacteria found on the touch screens in nearby McDonald’s restaurants. This included staphylococcus, which can bring about severe symptoms if ingested.
While the screens were routinely cleaned, it would be unrealistic to expect this to be done after every single use. With one particular study of 3,749 adults in an American college town suggesting that 43% of people do not wash their hands with soap following a trip to the bathroom, thorough hygiene control of a touchscreen in this setting is practically impossible.
Our usual responses to these risks are proportional to the seriousness of the infection risk within a particular setting. A touchscreen in a train station or hotel may only be cleaned on a fluctuating basis, but these are unlikely to pose a higher risk than, for example, an elevator button or handrail.
Touchscreens in use in more controlled environments such as restaurants are considered a higher risk, so these are naturally cleaned more frequently. Additionally, touchscreens in medical settings are normally cleaned often and systematically.
Gesture Recognition as an Alternative to Touchscreen Technology
This technology could provide a considerable advantage for applications where touchscreens are normally used. If we consider the examples mentioned previously, the implementation of simple gesture recognition as an alternative to touchscreens would not only reduce infection hazards, but the use of touchscreens for basic interactions would mean that less expensive, regular screens could be used in their place.
Screen Activation Based on People Presence in Close Proximity
ToF Technology for Inexpensive, GDPR compliant and Simple Gesture-Sensing
Time-of-Flight (ToF) technology provides a leaner and less computationally demanding solution to basic gesture recognition. Time-of-Flight sensors function by emanating a beam of invisible infrared light then quantifying the amount of time taken for the light to reflect off a target and return to the sensor. By obtaining an accurate measurement of this, the sensor can build up a rudimentary 3D image of the environment in front of it.
Infrared ToF performs well at short range, allowing the possibility to easily capture relevant gesture information with no need for the computationally demanding processing necessary to interpret conventional 2D or 3D camera images.
These modular ToF sensors have been developed to be as flexible, lightweight and precise as possible, ensuring that they can provide an efficient gesture-sensing solution at a price point that is retail-compatible.
Innovation in Gesture Recognition Technology
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